Prayer in sackcloth and ashes“Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord, your God.”

~ Joel 2:12, from the
Ash Wednesday reading

In one of the ancient rites of Christian baptism, the bishop tells the naked catechumens to face the west, dwelling place of darkness. Have they renounced Satan, his works and his service? If they have, “Breathe and spit upon him!”

Lent does not contain what Lent is all about. We finish with the 40 days, then we come to the font. The 40 days prepare for the three days: the fast of Lent gives way to the Good Friday and Holy Saturday paschal fasting. This is the pascha, passover of the Lord. Hungry from our fasting, we assemble in the darkness of that night between Saturday and Sunday to light a new fire and tell stories of wind blowing over the waters of chaos, of sea waters drowning pursuing foes, of Paul making clear: “Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

This done, we stand beside the waters where Satan can be named and renounced, Christian faith affirmed. In the womb/tomb of the waters is now our passover: the water flows over, drowns. And so we live all the years of our lives: baptized, passing over, struggling to renounce and so live.

“Breathe and spit upon him!” “I baptize you…” Lent is not some weeks of self-improvement, a season of programs. Lent is getting ready to breathe, to spit, to affirm, to go into the waters. Lent is intensely personal, essentially ecclesial. It is I who face up to it every year but only as one baptized, christened, part of the church.

Lent is about becoming this baptized people: it is about initiating new Christians which can be done only face-to-face with our gospel and our failure, face-to-face with ourselves, the church. We do not make up a special Lent about peace and justice, then. We just read the scriptures one more time, sing the psalms more by heart, kneel more often with the ancient words: Kyrie eleison.

But who does this? WE do. We: Americans, 2014. We the owners of arsenals, taxpayers for the weapons–subjects for a whole litany of charges to which we plead both guilty and seemingly helpless. The scriptures, song, kneeling and praying must be done by US, must bring us with all that baggage we carry toward the font. With prayer, Lent has its ancient disciplines: fasting and almsgiving. They will be there when we finally discover we need them, for we have no other way to journey toward our passover. In fasting from much that ties us to riches and war, in making alms even of the best gifts, we get closer to what the font’s waters ever hide and yet proclaim: the battle with evil is lifelong, exhausting, immensely confusing.

We hope the resources on this page will make us more conscious of the prayer of the tradition and the prayer within us, aware too of our groaning world, so that we may keep Lent and so come to the paschal three days and to Eastertime. (adapted from “Prayer and Lent,” a Pax Christi USA resource from the early 1980’s)

Our Common Lenten Prayer

This is the fast that pleases me:
to break unjust fetters,
to let the oppressed go free,
to share your bread with the hungry
and shelter the homeless poor.
If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness. (Isaiah 58:6-7, 10)

All praise be yours, God our Creator,
as we wait in joyful hope
for the flowering of justice
and the fullness of peace.
All praise for this day, this season.
By our weekly fasting and prayer
cast out the spirit of war, of fear and mistrust,
and make us grow hungry for human kindness, thirsty for solidarity
with all the people of your dear earth.
May all our prayer, our fasting and our deeds
be done in the name of Jesus. Amen.

(Source: Archdiocese of Chicago, 1983)


On this page throughout the season, we’ll be featuring reflections from a variety of authors of past Lenten booklets, in addition to this year’s, Embracing Possibilities: Reflections for Lent 2014, by Kathy Schmitt, Rev. Chris Ponnet, and Tom Cordaro, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. We’ll also be sending our weekly Lenten emails directly to your inbox if you’re subscribed to our free email service. (Click here to sign up if you are not already subscribed to our free email service.) 




Pax Christi International’s “Encountering Peace: In Solidarity with Syria Campaign”

As Lent 2014 begins, Pax Christi International is launching a worldwide campaign, “Encountering Peace”, to express solidarity with the people of Syria and to promote a negotiated solution to the extreme crisis gripping the country.

As Pax Christi members around the world “encounter” in solidarity the people of Syria who are devastated by ongoing violence, we will fast and pray and advocate for an end to the violence and for a successful “encounter for peace” at the negotiations table.

The Encountering Peace Campaign will take place from 5 March to 20 April 2014, to coincide with the Christian observance of Lent. In addition to prayer and fasting by individuals, Pax Christi member organisations are encouraged to organise opportunities for prayer, education, fasting and action in parishes, schools and religious communities.

Good Friday Observances

Traditionally, many Pax Christi USA local groups plan and stage a “Way of the Cross” event on Good Friday, connecting the sufferings of Christ during his passion with the suffering of our brothers and sisters at the hands of violence, greed, poverty, sickness and war. Below are resources for groups interested in undertaking a Way of the Cross in their community on Good Friday. Also please let us know if you have a Way of the Cross planned in your community. We will list below the names of groups, with contact information, which will be staging a Way of the Cross this year.

Click here to see our page of resources and listings of where Good Friday Way of the Cross and other observances will be taking place.


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